Shafaqna (International Shia News Agency) – The Grand Ayatollah Sistani answered some questions regarding marriage for Muslims in the West. According to Shafaqna the questions and answers are as follows:
Question 1 : Is it permissible for us to give the Imam’s portion of khums for the marriage of a believer (mo’min) in the West, knowing that the amount of money that is given here [for this one marriage] can be used for marriages of more than one believer [in the Muslim countries], and there are many needy believes, in Muslim countries? Is it not necessary that most possible numbers of deserving people should be helped from sahm-e Imam?
Answer: Although providing for the marriage of needy believers is among the avenues covered by the portion of the Imam (a.s.), one is not permitted to utilize it for this or its other purposes without the permission of the marja‘ or his representative.It is not necessary to use the sahm-e Imam to serve the interests of the most possible number of deserving people; what is important is to prioritize the important causes. This prioritization varies according to circumstances.
Question 2: Is it sufficient for a non-Arab to pronounce the marriage formula in Arabic without understanding the meaning of the words, even though we know that the purpose for uttering those words is to solemnize the marriage in the right way?Supposing that just the utterance is sufficient, is it necessary to say it in Arabic without having the need to say the marriage formula in another language?
Answer: It would be sufficient, provided that the person has some understanding, even roughly, of the meaning of the Arabic words based on obligatory precaution, it would not be sufficient to pronounce it in another language.
Question 3: Is it valid to pronounce the marriage formula through a telephone?
Answer: It is valid.
Question 4: Is it possible [for a witness] to give evidence using the telephone or fax or letter?
Answer: The rules and consequences that apply to the bearing of witness in presence of a judge cannot materialize without the physical presence of the witness. As for the testimony that just deals with describing the incident the way it occurred, the methods mentioned above, and other methods similar to them, are sufficient, provided that they are secured from fraud and error.
Question 5: Is it permissible to look carefully at the body, with exception of the private parts, of the woman one intends to marry with sexual motivation or without it?
Answer: It is permissible to look at the woman’s features like the face, the hair, and the hands but without lustful intention. And [it is permissible], even if one knows that lustful thoughts will naturally occur [by looking at her]. When a person has come to know about her features by the first look, it is not permissible to look again.
Question 6: Some Western governments allow the daughter to be independent of her parents, after she has passed the age of sixteen. If she seeks her parents advice, it is only for seeking their opinion or out of respect for them. Is such a virgin girl allowed to marry, be it permanent or a temporary marriage, without the consent of her father?
Answer: If this means that the father has allowed her to marry whomsoever she wants or that he has withdrawn from interfering in the matter of her marriage, it is permissible for her to do so; otherwise, based on obligatory precaution, it is not permissible.
Question 7: If a woman is over thirty years of age, and still virgin, is it necessary for her to seek the permission of her guardian for marriage?
Answer: If she is not independent, it is obligatory on her to seek his consent. Rather, even if she is independent, she must seek his consent, as a matter of compulsory precaution.
Question 8: Is it permissible for a virgin girl to use the light beauty powder in order to draw attention [to herself] in ladies only gatherings? What if she does so with the purpose of seeking marriage — wouldn’t it be counted as concealing physical defects, [if there were any]?
Answer: It is permissible for her to do that and it would not be regarded as “concealing the physical defects”. Even if it were, it would not be harãm unless she was intent on deceiving the person who wants to marry her.
Question 9: When is it permissible for a wife to ask for divorce through the religious judge? Is it permissible for a wife — whose husband constantly treats her badly or a wife whose is sexually not satisfied by her husband to an extent that she fears committing that which is harãm — to ask for divorce and be divorced?
Answer: It is permissible for her to ask for divorce through the religious judge, if her husband refuses to fulfill her marital rights and also refuses to divorce her after the religious judge has ordered him to do one of the two. In such a case, the judge would pronounce the divorced the wife.The circumstances in which this could happen are the following: When the husband refuses to provide for the wife and also refuses to divorce her. This would include the case of a husband who is unable to provide for his wife and also refuses to divorce her.When the husband harasses the wife, treats her unjustly, and does not behave with her kindly as Almighty Allãh has ordained. When the husband abandons her completely and she becomes like a suspended woman, i.e. neither married nor free to marry.As for the case where he does not fully satisfy her sexual needs to an extent that she fears committing the harãm, then, based on compulsory precaution, the husband must fulfill her needs or consent to her demand for divorce. However, if he does not do that, then the wife has to bear the situation patiently and wait [for a better future].
Question 10: There is a Muslim woman whose husband has left her for a long time now so much so that there is no hope of their getting reunited in the near future; she claims that she cannot stay without a husband because of the difficulty in living as a single woman in the West where she fears robbery and stealing by break-ins into the house. Can she ask for divorce through the religious judge so that he may pronounce the divorce, whereby she can, remarry whosoever she wants?
Answer: If the husband has abandoned her, she can take her case to the religious judge who will then force the husband to choose one of two courses: either end the abandonment or release her [by divorce] so that she can marry someone else. If he refuses to do any of the two, and it is not possible to force him to adopt one of the two alternatives, the religious judge has the right to pronounce the divorce at her request.But if the wife is the one who has left her husband without any [valid] justification, there is no way for the religious judge to pronounce her divorced.
Question 11: A Muslim couple got separated for a long time. Is it permissible for him to marry, temporarily or permanently, a woman from Ahlul Kitab without the knowledge of his Muslim wife? Is it permissible for him to marry, with the permission of his Muslim wife?
Answer: For a Muslim man to marry a woman from Ahlul Kitab permanently is against the compulsory precaution in any circumstance.And his temporary marriage to a Jewish or a Christian woman is allowed, only if he is not already married to a Muslim wife. If he has a Muslim wife, temporary marriage with an Ahlul Kitab woman is not permissible without her consent; nay, even with her consent, it is not permissible, based on compulsory precaution.
Question 12: A Muslim man who is married to a Muslim woman migrated from his country. After a longthy stay in the West country, he wants to embark on temporary marriage with a woman from Ahlul Kitab just a few days after divorcing his Muslim wife. Is this permissible for him, espeually when his Muslim wife is still in her waiting period (al-‘idda)?
Answer: The temporary marriage mentioned in the question is considered invalid because the wife who is in the waiting period of a revocable divorce is still considered as a wife. It has just been mentioned that to temporary marry an Ahlul Kitab woman while one has a Muslim wife is not permissible [as a matter of compulsary precaution].
Question 13: Is it obligatory to inform the man who wants to marry a woman from the Ahlul Kitab or a Muslim woman that she has not yet observed the waiting period (‘idda) of a divorce of a previous marriage, or that she is still in the ‘idda [during which marriage is forbidden for her]?
Answer: It is not obligatory.
Question 14: Is it permissible for a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman who is still married to a non-Muslim man? Is there an ‘idda period for her when she separates from her non-Muslim husband? What is the period of that ‘idda? Is it permissible to have sexual relations with her during the time when she is in the ‘idda from her non-Muslim husband? If she embraces Islam, how long will her ‘idda be, if she intends to marry a Muslim man?
Answer: It is not permissible to marry her while she is married to a non-Muslim in a marriage which is recognized by them because she is a married woman. It is permissible to marry her temporarily after her divorce and after the completion of the ‘idda from her non-Muslim husband. (The period of her ‘idda is not different from the ‘idda of a Muslim woman.) Therefore, it is not permissible before the completion of the ‘idda.If she becomes a Muslim after having had sexual relations with her non-Muslim husband and the husband has not embraced Islam, it is precuationarily obligatory for a Muslim not to marry her until after the completion of her ‘idda. But if she became a Muslim without having ever established sexual relations with her non-Muslim husband, then their marriage will be annulled immediately and there is no ‘idda in such a case.
Question 15: What is the meaning of “justice” required by religious law in dealing with one’s wives?
Answer: The justice that is required [in dealing with polygamy] is related to the division [of time between them] in the sense that when he spends a night with one of them then, he must spend one night each with the rest of them in every four nights.The justice that is required as a recommendation is equality in spending money, giving attention, cheerfulness, and fulfillment of their sexual needs, etc.
Question 16: If a Muslim woman commits adultery, is it permissible for her husband to kill her?
Answer: Based on obligatory precaution, it is not permissible for him to kill her, even if he sees her in the act of committing adultery.
Question 17: What is meant by the expression “an adulterous woman known for adultery” that is used in the Manuals of Islamic Laws?
Answer: It means that such a woman is known among the people for committing adultery.
Question 18: Is it permissible to be party to temporary marriage with a woman who is “known for adultery”, if no other woman is available and the person is in desperate need of marriage?
Answer: Based on obligatory precaution, one should refrain from marrying such a woman except after her repentance.
Question 19: What is the meaning of the expression used by the jurists that “there is no waiting period (‘idda) for an adulterous woman because of her adultery”?
Answer: It means that she is allowed to marry after having committed adultery without observing the ‘idda; and, if she is married, then it is permissible for her husband to have sexual relations with her without observing the ‘idda except in the case of al-wat’i bis-shubha (sexual relation established based on mistaken identity or ignorance of the law).
Question 20: A man lived with a woman whom he intended to marry and also had sex with her without entering into a marriage contract (‘aqd); thereafter he married her in the proper religious way. Is their co-habitation before the ‘aqd considered marriage in the eyes of religious law? Does the subsequent ‘aqd have retroactive effect? What will be the status of the children born before the ‘aqd?
Answer: In [an Islamic] marriage, the spousal relationship is established by the verbal expression of the proposition and the acceptance. More over no action or deed that reflects the intention of marriage can be a substitute for the spoken words. Consequently, the marriage mentioned in the question is not valid except after the pronouncement of the religious marriage formula that does not have any retroactive effect.As for the children, they will be considered legitimate if the parents did not know the law [requiring the ‘aqd] because their relationship will be classified as “wat’i bis-shubha”. But if both were aware of the law, their relationship is considered adulterous. Consequently the children will be deemed illegitimate. However, if only one knew about the law without the other, the children will be deemed legitimate in relation to the ignorant parent only.
Question 21: Certain circumstances demand that the use of insemination between husband and wife in order to increase the chances of pregnancy; this process of insemination requires exposing the private parts before the doctor. Is this allowed?
Answer: Exposing the private parts for the purpose mentioned above is not allowed. However, if there is a need that compels one to have children, and having children requires exposing the private parts, it is allowed. An example of “need” is when enduring childlessness becomes an unbearable difficulty for the couple.
Question 22: A woman who does not want children asks the doctor to tie her falopian tubes. Is this permissible for her—regardless of whether or not it is reversible; and whether or not the husband agrees to it?
Answer: It is permissible for her, provided that it does not involve any harãm touching or looking, irrespective of whether or not it is reversible. The permission of the husband is not required; of course, his permission might be required for other considerations.
Question 23: In the West [more precisely, in Italy] an ovum of a woman was fertilized in the laboratory, then the fertilized egg was implanted in the womb of the mother; the feotus developed in and was born from the grandmother’s womb. Is it permissible to implant a feotus [or the fertilized ovum] in its grandmother’s womb? And who will be the child’s mother according to the shari‘a?
Answer: It is difficult to consider it permissible in principle, even if we overlook the harãm looking and touching that is involved in this kind of procedure. And if this process takes place and the child is born, then in determining who is to be considered the child’s mother from the genealogical perspective —the genetic mother or the biological mother— there are two views. It is prudent to observe caution in regard to both women. [That is, fulfill the rights of mother in regard to both.]
Question 24: Sometimes the sperm of a man is preserved in a sperm bank. Is it permissible for a divorced Muslim woman to use the sperm of a strange man [to artificially inseminate herself] with or without his permission and without recitation of marriage formula? What is the ruling if the sperm is that of her ex-husband, and she intends to use it during the waiting period or after it?
Answer: It is not permissible for a woman to inseminate herself with the sperm of a strange man; and it is permissible to do so with the sperm of her husband, even during the waiting period but not after it.
Question25: A man is put in a situation that he either pleases his family or pleases his wife: should he divorce his wife in order to please his family or should he do the opposite?
Answer: He should adopt the situation that is best for his religion as well as his world, that he should be inclined towards justice and equitability, and refrain from injustice and violation of the rights [of others].
Question 26: What is the meaning of “obligatory maintenance” that a husband must provide for his wife? Should the level of the support be according to the social standing of the husband, the standard of life that the wife was used to in her father’s home, or other than that?
Answer: The criterion is the level that would be appropriate for her status in relation to that of her husband. [That is, the level that would be appropriate for her “as the wife of her husband”.]
Question 27: The wife has certain rights upon the husband; now if the husband neglects some of those rights, is it permissible for the wife to ignore his sexual advances?
Answer: She does not have such a right; if counseling and then warning do not help [in changing the husband’s attitude], she can take her problem to the religious judge who should take appropriate action.
Question 28: On embarking on a journey or coming back, a Muslim traveller embraces and kisses his wife in public. Is this permissible for him?
Answer: It is not harãm to do that, if the rules of appropriate covering [of the clothes] and hijãb are observed and as long as it does not entice lust [in other people]; it is preferable to refrain from this kind of behaviour.
Question 29: Legal divorce according to Western laws had already taken place between a man and his wife. The husband is not willing to uphold her religious rights, neither does he pay any maintenance money for her. He refuses to listen to the religious authorities who work as a go-between. What should the wife do, knowing well that her patience under such circumstances will surely cause her [unbearable] difficulty?
Answer: She should present her problem to the religious judge or his authorized representative who will then advise the husband to either provide for her or grant her religious divorce—even by appointing someone else to do that. If he refuses to do either, and it is not possible [for the religious judge] to provide for her from the husband’s wealth, the judge or his representative will pronounce the divorce for her.
Question 30: Is it permissible to have sex with a non-Muslim woman —from Ahlul Kitab or others— without doing the religious marriage on the basis that her country is in a state of war, directly or indirectly, with the Muslims?
Answer: This is not allowed.
Question 31: A wife neither obeys her husband nor fulfills her marital duties; she also goes out without his permission to stay with her own family for seven months. Then instead of having recourse to Islamic laws, she goes to a non-Islamic court in order to get spousal maintenance, custody of the children, and divorce from her husband. Does such a wife have the right in getting anything from her husband? In such a situation, when she goes to non-Islamic court it will apply non-Islamic laws to grant her divorce and her rights (spousal support and custody of children), does she deserve her full spousal rights?
Answer: The wife mentioned above does not deserve the spousal maintenance from a shari’a point of view. But her mahr (dowry) and her right of custody of children (under the age of two) should not be suspended because of her disobedience.
Question 32: A young lady had gone through an operation in which her womb was removed, and consequently she had stopped having her menses for more than fifteen years. Then she married a man in temporary marriage for a length of time that has now ended. Is it necessary for her to observe the waiting period (‘idda)? And if yes, what would be the time length of her ‘idda?
Answer: If she still is in the age of women who usually see their menses, then her ‘idda in the temporary marriage would be forty-five days.
Question 33: Sometimes a non-Muslim woman would verbally bear witness [of belief in Islam] for the sake of marriage which does attract plausible credence for others that she has really believed in Islam. Can the others [who have doubt about her belief] still treat her as they would treat Muslims?
Answer: Yes, the Islamic treatment would be applied to her as long as she does not say or do something that would contradict [her declaration of the faith].
Question 34: Sometimes the fertilized ovum of a woman is transplanted in the womb of another woman. Is this allowed? If pregnancy occurs, whose child will this foetus be considered?
Answer: There is no problem as long as the harãm touching and looking is not involved. And whether the genealogical mother of the child will be the genetic mother (who provided the ovum) or the biological mother (who carried the foetus in her womb), there are two views. Based on obligatory precaution, caution should be exercised in regard to both of them.
Question 35: The foetus swims in the liquid that is in the mother’s womb. This liquid comes out at the time of birth or just before it, sometimes with blood, at others without blood. Is this water considered ritually pure, if it comes out without blood?
Answer: Yes, it is ritually pure (tãhir) in this case.
Question 36: When is it permissible to abort a feotus? Does the age of the foetus have anything to do with it?
Answer: Abortion is not allowed after the implantation of the [fertilized] ovum [on the lining of the womb], except if the mother’s life is in danger or the continuation of pregnancy will cause difficulty for her that is not normally bearable and there is no other solution but abortion. In this case, it would be permissible to abort the foetus as long as the soul has not entered into it; after the entering of the soul, it is not permissible at all.
Question 37: Sometimes the doctors reach the following conclusion: This foetus is afflicted with a very serious disease; it is therefore preferable that it should be aborted because if that child is born, it will be deformed or will die soon after birth. Is it, therefore, permissible for the doctor to abort the foetus? Is it permissible for the mother to agree to the abortion? And who of the two will become liable for indemnity?
Answer: Just the fact that the child will be deformed or that it will not live for a long time after his birth does not ever justify the termination of the pregnancy. Therefore, it is not permissible for the mother to consent to the abortion just as it is not permissible for the doctor to go ahead with the procedure. And whoever performs the abortion will become liable for the payment of indemnity.
Question 38: Is a mother allowed to abort the feotus, if she does not want it while the soul has not yet entered it and there is no serious danger to the mother’s life?
Answer: She is not allowed to do that, except if the continuation of the pregnancy would harm her health or put her in an unbearable difficulty.
Source: Ayatollah Sistani